My First Time With Uncharted: An 11-Year Mystery To Solve The Memories

My earliest memories of Naughty Dog’s Uncharted are blurry and vague, but when distilled you get pure, unadulterated nostalgia. I used to play it at my dad’s work office (he’s a game dev) on the communal PS3. These trips weren’t all that common, usually happening during school holidays when my mam was busy, and they were fairly short, so I didn’t get too much time to play. This meant that I experienced Uncharted in small, spread-out snippets, clearly without paying much attention to the game’s name or story.

Regardless, I hold fond memories of ruins ravaged by greenery that a non-descript man would climb for god knows what reason before murdering everyone in his path. I mixed it up with similarly vague memories of Jak & Daxter – fitting, given they share the same developer. A few years later, with my elderly 15-year-old mind failing me, I searched the internet for climbing games involving ruins, only to end up with usual suspects like Tomb Raider, Assassin’s Creed, or Prince of Persia – all games I had already played to death.

My one memory envisioned a small square area with several stone platforms that you had to climb to reach a higher ledge in the middle. That’s all I had, aside from knowing that whatever I’d played back then had blown my tiny little gamer mind. It was the most stunning game I’d ever seen, and a lot of that came down to how gorgeous the jungle fauna looked as it bled into the archaic human structures. Everything else had fallen completely out of my head, but it left such a strong nostalgic imprint. After a few years, though, I gave up and dismissed it as a tech demo my dad had left lying around or something. It didn’t fit any of the games he was working on at the time, since most involved racing or cars, but it was all I could think of.

Then in university, I finally played The Last of Us. But before I did, I wanted to build up to it. The last Naughty Dog game I remembered playing was Jak X: Combat Racing, and leaping from that to what many labeled as the shifting point for storytelling in games felt like it would give me whiplash. So, I got the Nathan Drake Collection on PS4 and away I went.

The opening boat sequence felt a bit ‘naff, and I wasn’t completely sold on Nathan Drake just yet, but I stuck with it. Then came the first set of ruins to explore, followed by a giant shipwreck at the edge of a waterfall – like the icy current into the boat, the memories came flooding back. I’d seen this before. The foggy memory was nothing but a small section of those first ruins, climbing around them as I fiddled with the mechanics, never really progressing since I was so young and just wanted to enjoy scaling walls. But when I got into more gunfights in these same ruins, I unearthed more memories – I’d done all of this, and I loved it back then, just as I loved it 11 years later in 2018.

It was an incredibly satisfying realisation as I slipped back to simpler times. I remembered the small TV with a stack of PS3 games haphazardly placed by the console. I was either sitting on a sunken bean bag or a really soft sofa – that’s still a haze. I also remember pleading with my dad to let us take the game home, but we weren’t allowed. I’d forgotten all of this, but it became crystal clear again just from playing a couple of hours over a decade later.

It’s not the first time it’s happened to me. I had a similar story with the aforementioned Jak, but also with its cousin, Ratchet & Clank. I came back across those much sooner than Uncharted. Games like Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 even helped me unearth memories not necessarily tied to them, as I’ll remember repressed childhood moments that I’d experienced adjacent to gaming. It’s funny how memory works, and I won’t pretend to fully understand any of it, but I’m glad that games have helped me piece together so much of my youth all these years later, and who knows, maybe there’s more out there for me to puzzle. For now, though, I’m just glad to have solved my life-long Uncharted mystery.

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